Nanoly Bioscience works to eliminate refrigeration to transport vaccines in globe's rural areas

By: Debra Kahn Monday October 21, 2013 0 comments Tags: Balaji Sridhar, Boulder, Kristi Anseth, Nanoly BioScience, Nanxi Liu

By Debra Kahn


Nanoly logoBOULDER -- Seeing Bill Gates on CNN inspired University of Colorado Ph.D. and M.D. candidate Balaji Sridhar to co-found Nanoly Bioscience, a Boulder-based startup dedicated to increasing global access to vaccines by eliminating the need to refrigerate them.

Sridhar knew Gates and others were looking for a safe, effective vaccine transportation system that didn't incur the high costs - and limitations - imposed by refrigeration, and thus could be used to distribute vaccines to even the world's most rural areas. He also "knew about a polymer system that can degrade with light," through his work as an M.D. student with Kristi Anseth, a CU professor of chemical engineering.

So he asked his friend Nanxi Liu, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker, "Why not try this polymer system, because it seems easy to encapsulate a vaccine or protein and release it when you get to a rural area?"

Seeing the potential, Liu helped him co-found Nanoly Bioscience - Nanoly being a conflation of the term "nano technology."

"We're using nano particles in part of our theory of how this concept is going to work," says Liu. "'Nanoly' sounded pretty simple, memorable and easy."

The concept itself sounds simple when Sridhar explains it.  Most vaccines are proteins, he explains. "At higher temperatures, proteins tend to degrade because their structures lose integrity. So if you can keep it (the protein) clamped together, you can avoid that problem."

A polymer, a chemical structure (large molecule) comprised of repeating monomer units (smaller molecules), in nanocomposite form can entrap the protein and thus protect it from thermal degradation.

The 'nano' size of the polymer particles helps increase the encapsulated protein's resistance to heat.

Sridhar's mentor, Dr. Anseth, has been working with nano-polymers for a few years and serves as technical advisor to Nanoly's scientists. During her tenure at CU, Anseth has been named an endowed chair and a distinguished professor, has filed for 18 patents and has published nearly 180 research articles, according to her biography.

Polymer systems are relatively inexpensive and already FDA-approved for other medical uses, explains Sridhar. Contact lenses, for instance, are made of polymer materials.

The theory is that a "chemical protector" of this type can be customized for each of many common vaccines. The result will be a vaccine transportation-and-delivery system that is safe, "portable, convenient and reliable," according to the firm's website.

And the need is great. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), if global coverage of all available vaccines against childhood diseases could reach 90 percent, the deaths of 2 million children under 5 years old could be prevented each year. (

Nanoly's delivery system could also reduce costs, according to Sridhar. A market analysis by the team shows their system could cut the cost of transporting the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccine in half (from $120M/year to $58M/year) worldwide.

The process of getting Nanoly's delivery system to a wide market will take time and many steps. Currently, the team (including three other employees) continues to do research and development as well as proof of concept studies. In a few months, they hope to start animal trials. They continue to look for investors to assist with these steps.

Next steps will be toxicity studies, clinical trials, FDA approval and - finally -- release to the market, hopefully in 2017. Likely, these latter steps will involve partnership with an existing pharmaceutical company -- something the team has already started to explore.

They have received positive feedback so far. One potential pharmaceutical partner called their work, "highly innovative and customer-oriented," according to Sridhar. Recently, the team received second-place honors in the Colorado Technology Association's (CTA's) APEX Challenge.

And their vision extends beyond vaccine transportation systems.

"We're hoping that this can be a platform technology that can be used for various vaccines and also for protein biologics and other drugs as well," says Sridhar.

They hope this vision appeals to other scientists who might join them on their journey.

"We're hoping that we can change even the idea of refrigeration - moving away from that concept so that the world can have easier ways of storing things and transporting things," Sridhar said.
Debra Kahn

About the Author: Debra Kahn

Debra Kahn is a professional communicator and program manager with many years of experience in high tech. A long-time resident of Larimer county, she holds degrees in English from Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado. She has been the past recipient of technical writing awards from the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication. She is also a certified project management professional (PMP).